LAS VEGAS – The specialty food industry gathered en masse at the recent Winter Fancy Food Show earlier this month, and some noteworthy industry transformations were apparent, influenced by the pandemic and changing consumer preferences.
The pandemic inspired two overarching trends: a rise in the consumption of comfort foods, and an increased concern about sustainability, food waste and the environment – and those trends were clearly evident at the Fancy Food Show.
At the outset of the pandemic, consumers retreated to traditional favorites—pasta with marinara sauce, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, and chicken nuggets, for example. Those staples soon grew tiresome, however, and specialty food manufacturers, especially, built on the basics, often with a plant-based element.
Here were some trendsetting products along those lines that were featured at the Winter Fancy Food Show:
- Plant Based Foods: Hemp Sausage Crumbles, an alternative to bacon bits
- Bold Palate, No Cows on the Ranch: Dairy-free Ranch, to dress iceberg and other salads
- Borgo de Medici: Multicolor Linguine di Suocera, ribbon pasta colored with turmeric, spinach, beets, and paprika, to bolden a pasta dish
- Whoa Dough: Plant-based cookie dough bars
Twenty-eight companies were in the new Plant-Based Pavilions at the Winter Fancy Food Show, with scores of other plant-forward companies scattered about the exhibit hall.
Products that embraced sustainability and limited food waste were also prominent, prompting the following comment from Joy Nemerson, event specialist for the Upcycled Food Association, who noted, “This is a passionate community that cares about food insecurity and food waste.”
Among the examples of noteworthy, sustainable products featured in Las Vegas were:
- Foraged & Found: Pasta sauces made with wild harvested Alaskan bull kelp
- Vine to Bar: Chocolate bars that utilize the spent pressed grapes from winemaking
- Happy Planet Foods: Oat milk that requires less water than dairy or almond varieties
Ingredients at the Las Vegas trade show that appear to be on the rise include hemp, dates and peppers. Meanwhile, cocktail mixes continue to evolve, as consumers – many of whom now work remotely amid the lingering pandemic – are becoming home mixologists.
Ron Tanner has been observing and reporting on the food industry for more than four decades, including 33 years with the Specialty Food Association and 10 years with Progressive Grocer Magazine.